Working with patients at the Vajra Varahi Clinic has been an interesting and amazing experience so far. We see patients just two doors down from our bedroom, so the commute is very manageable. Each morning the patients all arrive at (or before) 9am and line up outside the clinic door. If you happen to peak out the window from the second floor in the morning and they see you while they are waiting, they are quick to put their hands together in prayer and shout the local greeting of “Namaste”, which means the light within me greets the light with in you. The same thing happens if you walk thru the downstairs waiting room or see strangers on the street.
We are in the first part of our third week and I have already provided 130 treatments to patients with acupuncture, herbs, cupping, moxa, massage and just good old TLC. The patients are kind and grateful because many of them are very poor and there is no free healthcare in this region. The most common complaints we see are body pain of all types (neck, shoulder, knee, back, hand and foot), gastric pain and respiratory disorders, all of which seem to be a result of their lifestyle (just like ours are, but in a very different way.) They work incredibly hard in a physical way; in the fields, cutting grass, gardening, milking cows, cooking and carrying large buckets of water constantly. We saw some women last week carrying huge baskets of gravel (much larger than a 5 gallon bucket) on their backs with a strap going across their forehead, up flights of stairs...all in a days work! Nepalis eat very spicy foods, likely to keep food poisoning and parasites away, since there is no refrigeration here. And the vast majority of vehicles are run on diesel and DEQ has no presence here. When you are out on the roads, with the chaos of traffic like I have never seen, you must wear a mask to help keep the thick exhaust out of your lungs.
Since we may very well be the only healthcare providers that our patients have seen, it is very important that we use all of our education and skills and senses to assess each patient’s total health picture and be sure they are referred to other health practitioners if their condition is beyond our scope or if they need more emergent care. I have already referred patients for very high blood pressure, laceration and kidney infection and my colleagues have seen acute appendicitis and other cases of high blood pressure, which have also been referred. Sometimes, even then, it is a challenge to make patients see the urgency of their condition when they have little or no money.
Last week one of the patients that we were treating for post stroke symptoms passed away. We would travel twice a week by motor bike to his modest one room, dirt floor home, located in an outlying village. We would treat him there, due to the severity of his case and the transportation challenges it presented. He was very old, thin, weak and sometimes sad, but he still had his sense of humor and such a kindness about him. I am completely grateful for the experience of meeting and treating him. On the last time I treated him, three days before he died, he asked his grown son to go out to the guava tree in the yard and pick some of them. When he returned with a bag full of the ripe, luscious, fragrant fruit, he said it was for us (me and my team) who have been treating him. Guava now has a new place in my heart and I am truly glad his suffering is over. I like to think that we helped to make his last days more comfortable and less lonely. And to me, this is what it’s really all about.
I look forward to the rest of my time here in Nepal, all the people I will connect with and the wisdom that they will surely impart. --- Kelli Jo Scott